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    What America Thinks
    Barak's Got Chutzpah!

    By Richard Morin
    Washington Post Polling Director
    Monday, August 9, 1999

    Most American Jews say they are "relieved" that Ehud Barak was elected prime minister of Israel, and an even larger majority believe Barak will do a better job bringing peace to the Middle East than his predecessor, Binyamin Netanyahu, according to a recent poll.

    The survey also found overwhelming support among Jews in the United States for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Two out of three also say they favor upgrading diplomatic relations with Syria and say the United States should offer economic assistance – but only if Syria "makes real peace with Israel."

    The poll of 606 Jewish Americans was sponsored by the Israel Policy Forum and was conducted in late June by Republican pollster Ken Goldstein, currently a consultant to George W. Bush, and Mark Mellman, a leading Democratic strategist and pollster.

    The survey found strong support for Barak and broad dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, the man Barak handily defeated in the May vote. Six in 10 American Jews had a favorable view of the new prime minister whereas half held a favorable view of Netanyahu. Eight in 10 said Barak's election made them feel "hopeful" about Israel's future; 56 said they were "relieved" that he won.

    Seven in 10 said Barak would do a better job than his predecessor at "improving Israel's image in the world," and an equally large majority said he would be more likely to get the Israeli army out of Lebanon. They also said Barak was more likely than Netanyahu to reduce tensions between secular and religious groups in Israel. (Netanyahu had been widely criticized for aligning his administration with ultra-orthodox Jewish groups.)

    Nearly six in 10 – 58 percent – said they would have voted for Barak if they could have participated in the Israeli election, while 22 percent said they would have supported Netanyahu.

    The survey also measured attitudes toward specific issues. It found, for example, that most American Jews approve of the decision by President Clinton to delay moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. One in four – 26 percent – said the embassy should be moved "immediately," while 34 percent said it should be moved "at a later date in conjunction with progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks." One in four opposed changing the location of the embassy.

    "Opinions about the embassy, however, do not appear to translate into much willingness to compromise on the status of Jerusalem," survey analysts noted in a summary of the poll findings. "Asked if 'in the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians, should Israel be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction,' 55 percent said no while 36 percent said yes."

    Doctors at War

    Nearly nine in 10 doctors say health care plans have denied their patients prescription drugs, diagnostic tests and other types of health services in the past two years, according to a new survey of doctors and nurses conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard University School of Public Health.

    Two out of three doctors say they have intervened with health care plans on behalf of their patients. Half of all doctors and nurses said they have "exaggerated the severity of a patient's condition to get coverage for medical care they felt was required by the patient," according to analysts for the study group.

    "There is a great deal of inappropriate care in the health care system and it is the managed care industry that has taken on the unpopular job of controlling costs, but this level of conflict and administrative haggling between doctors and plans can't be good for our health care system or for patients who are often caught in the middle," says Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    Doctors and nurses generally saw the growth of managed care as a bad thing. Nine in 10 said managed care has increased the amount of administrative paperwork for providers and patients. More than eight in 10 said managed care has "decreased the amount of time they spent with patients, and nearly as many said managed care has decreased the quality of patient care.

    A total of 1,053 physicians and 768 nurses were interviewed from February to June for this survey.

    Ignorance Is Bliss

    Speaking of Ehud Barak: Who is Ehud Barak? The overwhelming majority of Americans don't know, according to the latest Harris poll of 1,015 randomly selected adults. Only one in six knew that Barak is the new prime minister of Israel, Harris pollsters reported. But don't feel too bad, Ehud: Only one-third of all adults know that Tony Blair is prime minister of Great Britain. On the other hand, nearly seven in 10 know who Boris Yeltsin is. And closer to home, nine in 10 Americans know that Al Gore is vice president.

    Richard Morin is director of polling for The Washington Post. "What Americans Think" appears Mondays in The Washington Post National Weekly Edition. Morin can be reached at morinr@clark.net .

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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